Igboho said this during an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, while reacting to the face-off between him and security agents around the Guru Maharaji bus stop along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The Yoruba activist, who has been in the news for serving a quit notice on Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the South-West, said he was never invited before they attempted to arrest him.
Igboho, therefore, stated that he did not know why he was being targeted. He advised the Federal Government to focus on capturing Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, and invite Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, who has been meeting with bandits in recent times.
He said, “I was never invited. They just lay in ambush for me at Guru Maharaji and started shooting. They started shouting, ‘Where is Sunday Igboho?’ I identified myself and asked them what the problem was. They said I was under arrest and I said, ‘For what? On my father’s land? That was how it degenerated.
“When they noticed how tense everywhere was, they fled. They came in four Hilux vans and a Toyota Land Cruiser. There are bandits operating all over the place but people like me who are defending our fatherland are the ones you want to arrest. Why?”
When asked if the police had invited him, he said, “I have not been invited. What have I done to warrant an arrest? Why do they want to arrest me? What have I done?”
On whether he would honour a police invitation if invited, Igboho said, “Go and ask them to invite Gumi and Shekau first before disturbing me. Let them face the bandits instead.”
When asked if he would go into hiding, he said, “What for? I am in the neighbourhood. I cannot run.”
He added that he had returned to his base in Ibadan.
Igboho told Saturday PUNCH that his bank account was initially frozen but that the restriction was lifted recently.
He said he had done nothing wrong by fighting for the rights of his people.
Attempted arrest: I won’t stop defending rights of my people, says Igboho
Meanwhile, Igboho has said the attempt by the security agents to apprehend him on Friday will not stop him from fighting to make his people safe.
Spokesman for the Yoruba activist, Oladapo Salami, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, said his principal saw the attempted arrest as one of those things to cow him but that he would not stop defending the rights of his people.
Salami said, “Igboho went to attend a meeting with some Yoruba elders and, on his way coming back, some security agents wanted to apprehend him. The security agents blocked the road with patrol vans of Operation Burst, DSS van and made an attempt to arrest him.
“One of the vehicles used to block him is marked AK 1449. It was Operation Burst vehicle. But they were not able to arrest him. The incident happened before Guru Maharaji Camp.”
Asked why Igboho took off his shirt as seen in a viral video, Salami stated that that was not the issue.
He said, “They made an attempt to arrest him but he has not been arrested; he is at home. Is it a crime to defend one’s people? He is a bit discouraged that some Yoruba persons are also part of the ploy, despite the fact that he is fighting a Yoruba cause.
“But this will not stop him from fighting for the Yoruba people. This is one of the challenges; he will forge ahead. There is no going back on the struggle to make his people safe, especially on their land.”
According to Salami, though the meeting Igboho was to attend had to do with issues confronting Yoruba people, he remains undaunted in his pursuit to fight for his people to be free from criminals.
Also, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in a statement following the incident, said Igboho was on his way to meet with 93-year-old Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, when the incident occurred.
The statement read in part, “I just spoke to my brother Sunday Igboho. He told me there was a violent attempt to arrest him this afternoon by a joint team of soldiers, DSS operatives and policemen numbering about 40 on the Ibadan/Lagos Expressway, whilst he was on his way to see Baba Ayo Adebanjo in Lagos.
“I condemn this attempt to ambush and abduct him. It is not only reckless but also very dangerous. If the security agencies want to see him, all they need to do is to invite him to their office. I am not aware of any crime that he has committed and I urge restraint on all sides.
“Let me also send a warning to the Federal Government that Sunday Igboho is a hero to millions of Yoruba and either killing him or detaining him unlawfully would be the biggest mistake they could make. Building bridges, dialogue and the pursuit of peace are better than intimidation, threats, violence and war. A word is enough for the wise.”
Igboho visited me –Adebanjo
Meanwhile Afenifere chieftain, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, on Friday evening, confirmed Igboho’s visit to his house in Lagos and condemned the attempt by security operatives to arrest Igboho en route to the meeting.
Adebanjo told one of our correspondents at 11.44pm that Igboho paid him a courtesy visit. He said, “Yes, Sunday Igboho was here. He paid me a courtesy visit. We had a useful discussion.” The elder statesman, however, did not disclose what he discussed with him during the visit to his house.
The Yoruba leader said the attempt to arrest Igboho was unfortunate and uncalled for. He lamented that bandits, who were killing and kidnapping people in the North, had not been arrested, while Igboho was being hunted.
Adebanjo added that only God would deliver Nigeria out of the hand of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), describing his regime as dictatorial and imperialistic.
He also decried that Gumi, despite his “debilitating utterances,” had not been arrested by the Buhari regime, adding that the Islamic scholar’s comments that bandits were not criminals and that they should be given amnesty was unjust.
The Afenifere chieftain also criticised Gumi for saying Christian soldiers were the ones killing Fulani herdsmen and bandits.
He added that though the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, had written to Buhari in 2018 about the killings of his people by Fulani herdsmen, the President did nothing about it.
Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, also condemned the attempt to arrest Igboho
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH, Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said the machinery of government would not have been after Igboho, were he a bandit.
Odumakin, responding to the attempted arrest, said, “There is no sense in that (arrest). He (Igboho) is a free citizen of Nigeria. If they need him for any questioning, they should invite him, rather than waylay him like an armed robber.
“We condemn their attempt. There is no need for it. He has not been invited, let alone not honouring the invitation. Chasing him on the road is condemnable.”
The Afenifere spokesman lamented that the Buhari regime favoured bandits who had been left roaming the country despite their many atrocities.
When asked whether the group was concerned that security agencies were after Igboho and not bandits, Odumakin said, “Sunday Igboho is not a bandit. Bandits are special under this administration. That is the difference between a bandit and a non-bandit in Nigeria today.”
In January, Igboho had issued a seven-day quit notice to Seriki Fulani in Igangan, Salihu Abdukadir, over the killings, kidnappings, rape and other crimes allegedly perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen in the Ibarapaland area of Oyo State, especially Igangan in Ibarapa North Local Government Area.
He stormed the residence of the Seriki and asked him to leave the town. But Governor Seyi Makinde warned against issuing such quit notices to residents of the state.
On the day the ultimatum expired, Igboho went back to Igangan and addressed thousands of youths who had gathered to welcome him. Though he addressed them and left, an irate mob invaded the Seriki’s residence and set it ablaze.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, later stated that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had ordered the arrest of Igboho for giving the Fulani in Oyo State an ultimatum to exit the state.
You can’t arrest Igboho without picking Gumi, others, Falana tells FG
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), says the Federal Government cannot arrest Igboho without picking up Gumi, who has been meeting with bandits, and others who have issued quit notices to southerners in the past.
Falana, who spoke in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, noted that Gumi had told bandits last week that Christian soldiers were the ones killing them.
He said, rather than focus on Igboho, the government must ensure that justice was applied equitably.
The senior advocate said, “Sunday Igboho should not be arrested because those who had issued quit notices in the past were not arrested. Someone like Gumi, who is causing religious division in the military, has not been arrested. Unless they are ready to adopt the same standard, you cannot arrest Igboho.
“Those who gave quit notices in the past were never arrested. In any case, the DSS has denied trying to arrest him. However, you cannot arrest him.”
Falana also agreed with the Presidency that there was a need for state governments to stop giving cash and vehicles to bandits as part of amnesty, which he said was encouraging the banditry.
“The government must acquire equipment to track the bandits and release those in their custody,” the activist said.
How we resisted attempt to arrest Sunday Igboho –OPC
The National Publicity Secretary of the New Era faction of the Odua People’s Congress, Akinpelu Adesina, decried the attempt by the joint team of security operatives to arrest Igboho, saying the attack was wrong and unwarranted.
The OPC chieftain, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said he and other members of Yoruba local security and pressure groups were with the Yoruba activist on his way to see Adebanjo in Lagos when they were accosted by a security team comprising men of the Nigerian Army, police and DSS.
Adesina said, “Although we were caught unawares, we were not unprepared for any eventuality. Sunday Igboho was to meet our father, Ayo Adebanjo, in Lagos, so we got prepared and set out. I can’t really tell the exact time.
“Our journey was smooth until we were stopped and the security men began to harass the entourage asking, ‘Where is the criminal?’ We were in disbelief. When we realised that it was Igboho Osha that they were on the lookout for, there was an exchange of words and the place turned rowdy.
“We called to question their ground for wanting to arrest him. For us, the law enforcement agents were wrong to have put on a show. On what ground would the arrest of Sunday Igboho be, while the killer herders who are wielding dangerous weapons, kidnapping, killing, maiming and extorting our fathers, mothers and sisters still walk free?
“We are happy that although there was tension at the scene, we were allowed to go without any problem. No gunshot was fired, nobody got hurt and we later proceeded on our journey.”
Tension in Ibadan over attempt to arrest Igboho
In a related development, there was tension in parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Friday over Igboho’s attempted arrest.
The Soka area of Ibadan, where the activist resides, became tension-soaked with some youths clustered in small groups within his neighbourhood. Some of them were seen making phone calls to ascertain the veracity of the story, while others were reassuring one another that Igboho had not been arrested.
Some motorists tried to make detours to avoid possible breakdown of law and order.
A source in the area said, “When it became clear that he had been freed by the joint security agents that stopped him, the boys went into mild jubilation and normalcy was restored.”
It was learnt that the people of Ibarapa community were also agitated when news of the attempt to arrest Igboho was received but at the time of filing this report, there was calm in the zone.
Presidency, FG keep mum
When asked who ordered Igboho’s arrest and for what offence, the presidential spokesman directed Saturday PUNCH to the security agencies whose officials attempted to carry out the arrest.
Shehu said, “Since it was reported that policemen and DSS officials attempted to effect the arrest, I think you should direct your questions to the police and the DSS.”
The Special Adviser to the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, did not take calls and did not respond to messages
We didn’t attempt to arrest Igboho –DSS, police
However, the DSS spokesman, Dr Peter Afunanya, dismissed reports that the secret police attempted to arrest Igboho, saying nothing of such happened.
“The Department of State Services wishes to refute the reports that it attempted to arrest one Sunday Igboho today, at Ibadan, Oyo State. The said news is misinforming and should be taken as fake and, therefore, be disregarded,” he said.
Similarly, the Oyo State Police Command, told one of our correspondents that it was not aware of the plan to arrest Igboho.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, said, “I am not aware of that. I am not aware of it.”
Operation Burst, a joint security operation involving soldiers, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, which was established by the state government to tackle insecurity, also denied any knowledge of an attempt to arrest the Yoruba activist.
The Director General of Operation Burst, Col. Oladipo Ajibola (retd.), said he was not aware of any attempt to arrest Igboho, saying, “That did not come to my knowledge.”
Igangan people vow to resist Seriki’s return
Meanwhile, the people of Igangan, Ibarapa North LGA have said the attempt by the government to arrest Igboho was an indication that the government had failed the people.
When contacted, the Convener of Igangan Development Advocates, Mr Oladiran Oladokun, said if the government had done what was expected of it, people like Igboho would never have emerged to offer to secure the people.
Asked if the people of Igangan would allow the Seriki Fulani, who fled the town in January, to return to his residence, Oladiran vowed that the people would never allow such.
“Any attempt to bring Seriki back will lead to a serious crisis. We won’t allow that to happen. There is no way for Seriki to come back. Since Seriki left, how many people have been reported kidnapped? Peace has returned to a large extent since he left, so bringing him back will be resisted by all means,” The Igangan leader said.
Igboho hasn’t breached any law –YCE
The Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, also berated security agencies and the government for the attempt to arrest Igboho.
Olajide said Igboho had not breached any law by defending his people from criminals who had terrorised them for many years.
Similarly, the President, Egbe Omo Oduduwa in Minnesota, United States of America, Goke Odujole, warned the government against picking up Igboho, saying the move was tantamount to pouring petrol into a fire.
Also, President, Centre for Change, Dr Joe Okei Odumakin, in a statement titled ‘Igboho: Learn from history,’ expressed concern over the attempt by security operatives to arrest Igboho, saying, “With crises everywhere – Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, banditry, kidnappings and the Niger Delta militants joining the fray again – we must not open another theatre of war in the South-West.”